Airguns of the American West Part 6

Airguns of the American West Part 6

Shooting the Schofield Revolver

As close as it gets to the real thing!

By Dennis Adler 

The S&W topbreak revolvers, including g civilian models of the Schofield, found their way into the holsters of lawmen, like Virgil Earp and Dallas Stoudenmire, cowboys and cattlemen, as well as notorious outlaws like John Wesley Hardin and Jesse James. The nickel plated Bear River Schofield is an extremely accurate copy of the famed S&W .45 Schofield Model. (Holster by .45Maker, cartridge belt by John Bianchi Frontier Gunleather)

The S&W topbreak revolvers, including civilian models of the Schofield, found their way into the holsters of lawmen, such as Virgil Earp and Dallas Stoudenmire, cowboys and cattlemen, as well as notorious outlaws like John Wesley Hardin and Jesse James. The nickel plated Bear River Schofield is an extremely accurate copy of the famed S&W .45 Schofield Model. (Holster by .45Maker, cartridge belt by John Bianchi Frontier Gunleather)

The .177 caliber Schofield revolver is a page right out of Western history, the gun that beat Colt’s to market with the first larger caliber single action cartridge loading revolver, and in 1870 got the bulge on Colt’s with the first U.S. Cavalry orders for a new post Civil War handgun. The topbreak S&W Schofield and No. 3 American models may not have been as famous as the Colt Peacemaker, but they certainly wrote themselves a chapter in the story of the American West. The new .177 caliber Schofield models bring that same heritage to the Western airgun market with two well built and accurate six-shooters.

Standard Schofield model is matte charcoal black with the look and feel of old time (but not that old) Parkerizing, used on military weapons.

Standard Schofield model is matte charcoal black with the look and feel of old time (but not that old) Parkerizing, used on military weapons.

The finish on the standard Schofield model is matte charcoal black with the look and feel of old time (but not that old) Parkerizing, used on military weapons. The original phosphate process itself, used on steel to resist rusting and corrosion, dates as far back as the 1850s, but didn’t come into prominent use on firearms until WWII. And since the majority of parts on the airgun are cast alloy, it isn’t really Parkerizing, but a hard coat surface that is very resilient, though not overly attractive, nor correct for a Schofield revolver. For those who prefer a period correct finish, Bear River also has a nickel plated model that looks remarkably real.

The author’s custom antiqued Bear River Schofield (top) with an original nickel plated S&W Schofield model. The differences are far fewer than the similarities. The hammer on the airgun rests further back from the frame while the trigger sits slightly forward, and of course, there is the manual safety lever just behind the base of the hammer. At a glance though, even a long glance, it’s hard to tell the .177 caliber pistol from the .45 S&W model.

The author’s custom antiqued Bear River Schofield (top) with an original nickel plated S&W Schofield model. The differences are far fewer than the similarities. The hammer on the airgun rests further back from the frame while the trigger sits slightly forward, and of course, there is the manual safety lever just behind the base of the hammer. At a glance though, even a long glance, it’s hard to tell the .177 caliber pistol from the .45 S&W model.

Dimensionally, the Bear River Schofield is very close in size and balance to an original Schofield civilian model (pictured). With an overall length of 12.5 inches and a 7-inch barrel, the airgun is within fractions of an inch to an original, with a carry weight of 37.5 ounces; a .45 S&W Schofield weighs 39 ounces. Compared to a 7-1/2 inch barrel length Colt SAA, the Schofield and Colt are comparably balanced but almost everyone to a man will find the Colt faster to cock because of the larger hammer and longer hammer spur. For the airguns, the Schofield is a bit nose heavy compared to the 5-1/2 inch barrel length Umarex Colt Peacemaker, and once again the Colt is faster to cock. Of course, in the Old West and even today, speed isn’t as important as accuracy, the Schofield’s rear sight being integral with the large latch release is a tad easier to acquire. In the end, it is the same today as it was 143 years ago; choosing between a Colt and a Smith & Wesson is a matter of personal preference.

From southwest cow towns to the oil fields of Oklahoma and all the way east, S&W’s topbreak revolvers were the most popular six-shooters after the Colt Peacemaker. Considering how far fewer there were than Colts Single Actions, perhaps, proportionately, they were even more popular.

From southwest cow towns to the oil fields of Oklahoma and all the way east, S&W’s topbreak revolvers were the most popular six-shooters after the Colt Peacemaker. Considering how far fewer there were than Colts Single Actions, perhaps, proportionately, they were even more popular.

The Schofield was the equal of a 7-1/2 inch Peacemaker, as fast to handle and depending on who was behind the gun, as accurate, if not more so with its larger sights. The .177 caliber model has all of the same features.

The Schofield was the equal of a 7-1/2 inch Peacemaker, as fast to handle and depending on who was behind the gun, as accurate, if not more so with its larger sights. The .177 caliber model has all of the same features.

Downrange

The CO2 loads into the Schofield’s grip frame exactly like the Colt Peacemaker, and the left grip panel also has a built-in wrench to tighten the seating screw and pierce the CO2 cartridge. Where the two differ is in loading the BBs into the cartridges. The Colt rounds load BBs (or pellets on the pellet models) into the back of the cartridge where the primer goes on a real pistol round. The Schofield loads BBs (so far there is only a smoothbore BB model available), into the nose of the BB cartridge bullet.

Like the S&W models, the .177 caliber air pistol has the automatic cartridge ejector actuated by breaking open the gun and tilting the barrel down. Since the BB cartridges can be reloaded, you don’t want them flying out of the cylinder, so the ejector stops short, allowing them to be dumped or removed by hand. If you use the speed loader that comes with the extra cartridges, it is designed for the Webley airgun. In order to load the Schofield, you have to hit the center release with your finger (holding the speed loader with the cartridges upright) and then dump them into the cylinder. It’s slower than a normal speed loader but still faster than one round at a time.

Like the S&W models, the .177 caliber air pistol has the automatic cartridge ejector actuated by breaking open the gun and tilting the barrel down. Since the BB cartridges can be reloaded, you don’t want them flying out of the cylinder, so the ejector stops short, allowing them to be dumped or removed by hand. If you use the speed loader that comes with the extra cartridges, it is designed for the Webley airgun. In order to load the Schofield, you have to hit the center release with your finger (holding the speed loader with the cartridges upright) and then dump them into the cylinder. It’s slower than a normal speed loader but still faster than one round at a time.

Since extra rounds come with a speed loader, it is really fast to seat six BBs. Once in the speed loader just press all six into a jar lid full of BBs, they almost seat themselves. A quick check to ensure they are all seated to the proper depth, and you’re ready to load. If you don’t have the speed loader, you can hold all six nose-down in your hand and do it almost as quickly.

Loaded with Hornady Black Diamond .177 caliber black anodized steel BBs, and fired offhand from a range of 25 feet, the Schofield put a best six rounds on target measuring 0.75 inches. Out of a total of 24 rounds, all 24 shots struck inside of 3.0 inches with as second six round group measuring 1.125 inches.

the Schofield put a best six rounds on target measuring 0.75 inches. Out of a total of 24 rounds, all 24 shots struck inside of 3.0 inches with as second six round group measuring 1.125 inches.

The Schofield airgun put a best six rounds on target measuring 0.75 inches. Out of a total of 24 rounds, all shots struck inside of 3.0 inches, with as second six-round group measuring 1.125 inches. Group at lower left (under the gun) were fired quick draw from the hip at 10 feet. 

Just for the heck of it I shot another six rounds fast draw from the hip at a distance of 10 feet. All six came in low (Old West gut shots) with a spread measuring just under 2-inches on the target. Velocity for the CO2 powered single action with Black Diamond averaged 418 fps. The sights, identical to the original S&W model, are not the greatest in the world but certainly no worse, and on my antique finished model used for the tests, a little better than those of a comparable Colt Peacemaker because of the contrast between the polished front blade and dark rear notch. All things being equal, the Schofield stacks up to the .177 caliber Peacemaker much the same today as it did in the 1870s.

 Coming up in Part 7, “So, you hate the matte black finish on the standard Schofield airgun?” Here’s how to make your own antiqued model just like the author’s.

A word about safety

Blowback action airguns provide the look, feel and operation of their cartridge-firing counterparts and this is one reason why they have become so popular. Airguns in general all look like guns, blowback action models more so, and it is important to remember that the vast majority of people can’t tell an airgun from a cartridge gun. Never brandish an airgun in public. Always, and I can never stress this enough, always treat an airgun as you would a cartridge gun. The same manual of operation and safety should always apply.

8 thoughts on “Airguns of the American West Part 6

  1. The nice thing about these replica airguns is than you can make the case for buying either firearms that aren’t readily available, or those that are quite expensive. The other pluses are having an understudy for a real firearm that you can use anywhere. I find them useful to introduce new shooters to shooting. Last summer we had a barbeque and for entertainment brought out the peacemakers and Colt 1911 Commander. Women who had never fired a handgun were putting them in the black within a few minutes, and all had a great time. I am jealous that you already have the nickel version. I am a daisy cause I don’t


  2. So now that we have most of the Western cartridge replicas covered with the Peacemaker and Schofield , still waiting for an 1875 Remington , it is time to go back further in time . With the basic action in place from the Peacemaker, and it having the grip frame from the 1860 Army it is time for , well an 1860 Army. A pellet version loading from the front of the cylinder like the old Crosman 45 , but this time using a rammer . Should be easy enough to do, what do you think?


    • Those are great ideas once again, and some have already been considered. I personally agree with you about the 1875 Remington, that would complete the big three in Western handguns. As with all new things, and remember, the Umarex Colt SAA was only introduced a little more than a year and a half ago, this is a work in progress, and everyone is going to be pleased with the future of Western air guns. We now have multiple versions of the SAA, others to come, plus the new Schofield single actions. We have actually already come a long way in a short time.

      Dennis Adler



    • Kade:

      Actually, it is easier on a blued steel gun, as the bluing is easier to remove with the Grade #0000 steel wool, plus you have the option of re-bluing with cold blue, and then polishing that out to leave an even more authentic looking finish. I did this numerous times with black powder reproductions, and the effect is great. On the Makarov, be sure to follow all my instructions for the Schofield in parts 7 and 8 of this series. The info is important when working on an airgun, vs. a cartridge or black powder gun because there are more sensitive parts in an airgun, like the rubber seals. Enjoy the next two articles.

      Dennis Adler



Leave a Reply